I think I lost my light a while ago. There were moments in time when it would flicker as gale force winds would rage, but it still blazed on strong. Resilience was always my forte, but that is the power that hope and change always offer. My light could burn bright and far, and even dazzle if I needed it to. Now everything is suffocatingly black and I’ve been trying to navigate through claustrophobic spaces with arms outstretched and eyes squinting against the dark to make out anything familiar.
I stumble, over and over again. I make wrong decisions and repeat old habits, deliberately dimming my wattage so low not even a spark could reignite it. I mean if all you’ve ever been told is that your worth is measured by your faults, you’d probably stop turning the switch on too, right?
This is my battle with mental health. I’d like you to join me here, but only if your intentions are kind. If you’re here to champion the importance of support and self love whilst connecting through a story, then please keep reading, but if you’re only here to guzzle some tea, well… You know where the exit is.
I wrote majority of this piece a year ago and wasn’t quite brave enough to share it then. To be completely vulnerable amongst your peers is a difficult thing to do when you’ve always been perceived as strong and independent. However, the girl with all the answers who never needed anybody, really and truly always did.
I’ve spent the better part of my life completely and utterly hating every part of my personality. No matter how sincere the gesture was, sarcastic the joke, or a conversation taken through a direct approach, it always felt misinterpreted or like I needed to explain myself. The personal perception of constantly walking on egg shells, when all you want to do is connect on a genuine level is a difficult life to lead. When you give your absolute all to those you care about, only to be told by partners, supposed friends and family members that you’re too much, too loud, too opinionated and too strong willed, whilst they use words such as aggressive, bossy, and bitch to describe you, would you think much else of yourself?
There were some days I wondered what it would be like if I could just think differently, just fit in with the crowd to make it all easier. Would that be more acceptable for everyone if I masked myself? What if I were a man instead? Would they use warmer words such as confident, forward thinking and leader to describe me instead?
Then there were many days I wondered if I should just walk into oncoming traffic instead.
It has taken a year and a half to move on from a toxic intertwined workplace and relationship and allow myself to become more aware of my triggered behaviour and how others often project their own fears onto you when they aren’t sure of themselves. You might find my openness and unwavering honesty a design flaw in my personality, a disadvantage, a problem. To me they are my super powers because I’ve learned how to utilise these traits to read others better, to have empathy and understand how to deal with difficult situations (mostly) with a level head. I still question myself every day, but I’m proud of who I choose to grow to be.
I’m pouring myself onto this page to shine a light on the feelings many of us hide deep below the surface. Telling ourselves we’re wrong, we don’t fit in, it’s always our fault and we don’t deserve to be here. The hard times fallen upon so many over the past few weeks can lead further down a dark path where everyone keeps telling you “don’t worry, it’ll get better soon” but you know there is no foreseeable end to ‘soon’ and only an infinite amount of time for you to be consumed by your thoughts.
I am here with you and understand. I had been reaching personal and career goals over the past 10 months that I finally felt secure for the first time in a long time. Then it all came crashing down in a matter of days and my perfectly designed world tilted on its side.
Two weeks ago I was made redundant from my ideal job and at the same time all three of my housemates moved out within 2 days in a very volatile manner, leaving me to sort their furniture, clean down their rooms and find new housemates. I didn’t allow myself to feel anything for a week. I created distraction through extreme cleaning and daily errands, with the unfortunate subsequence of my extreme stress having me forget to eat consistent meals. This resulted in the catalyst of an hour long anxiety attack in a large and completely empty house. Alone and lost.
Does this sound familiar to you?
If so, please know you are not alone and that you can and should reach out to someone understanding and sincere (if possible a professional) as it is not weak to speak. In my case a very dear friend who is also a psychologist helped talk me through my attack and allowed me to see that I wasn’t being unreasonable or selfish during my lowest moment, even though I tried to reason that there were others worse off than me. Please know, just as she told me, your feelings are valid to you and your circumstance and understanding how to cope during your own personal crisis is important to your well being. Right now many people are more susceptible to mental illness than ever and you should never discourage how you feel for the sake of appearing strong. I can only hope that my words encourage you to love your inner self right now and if you can’t, speak with someone that can help you gradually get there.
For me, this week I started to see my light be reignited again. It’s taken time with a lot of self reflection, but I feel the glow. This period of hardship does not define who I am, nor is it mine or anyone else’s fault. I’m also taking this moment to recognise that I will no longer hold time, space or attention for those who wish to diminish my character and most importantly, my value, because I am so much more than someone else’s opinion of who they think I am. The steps of self love and awareness I have slowly been making over the past two years have been so important to ensure I return to the woman I know is there, waiting patiently inside to embrace her worth.
♥ Love from Leah
If you, or someone you know is struggling with mental health during the current crisis, please reach out to the below services that are here to help you in your time of need.
Mental Health Australia – http://mhaustralia.org/
Beyond Blue – http://beyondblue.org.au
Lifeline – https://www.lifeline.org.au/
Black Dog Institute – http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/
Headspace – http://headspace.org.au/
National LGBTI Health Alliance – http://lgbtihealth.org.au/